Somehow, that doesn’t surprise me:
The nation’s ruling class holds deeply authoritarian opinions widely divorced from the rest of the American electorate, finds a survey out this week. It found nearly 60 percent of American “elites” think there is too much individual freedom in America. Meanwhile, nearly 60 percent of registered voters have the exact opposite opinion, reporting the United States has too much top-down control, limiting liberty.
The study, titled “Them Vs. U.S,” defined the American “elite” as “having a postgraduate degree, a household income of more than $150,000 annually, and living in a zip code with more than 10,000 people per square mile.” Such people account for about 1 percent of Americans. The study also examined a sub-sample of the 1 percent who graduated from Ivy League schools or other name-brand institutions such as Northwestern, Duke, Stanford, and the University of Chicago.
By contemporary standards, those are the favored of our time. And it is normal today for persons with those characteristics to aspire to power, wealth…and distinction. It’s a fair bet that most of them already have some personal power and generous amounts of wealth. However, distinction is getting harder to achieve.
To be distinguished from others requires that you have what they do not – and cannot. Freedom makes it possible for ordinary people to become wealthy. That undercuts the distinction of affluence. To restore that distinction requires that the freedom that makes general affluence possible be reduced if not eliminated. That plays nicely into the elites’ desire for more power.
Thomas Szasz sarcastically defined freedom as “That which you demand for yourself but would deny to others.” Perhaps America’s elites hold to that definition.